Drink Responsibly: How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Learn how alcohol affects your body and why you should be a smart drinker.
Learn how alcohol affects your body and why you should become a smart drinker.

The holiday season calls for many social gatherings surrounded by food and alcohol. While it’s quite all right to have one glass of wine per day, it can be easy to overindulge in alcohol—especially with the New Year right around the corner. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dire consequences later in life, which is why you should know what alcohol can do to your body.

Here are four ways alcohol affects our bodies, and why we should track our wine, beer and liquor intake this season.

Brain Damage

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol “interferes with the brain’s communication pathways,” which can cause mood swings, memory loss, anxiety, sleep disturbances and coordination struggles. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause brain shrinkage, which can lead to learning and loss of cognitive skills, and even lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a serious brain disorder.

Heart Effects

It’s a well-known fact that heavy alcohol consumption can lead to heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), alcohol abuse can raise triglyceride fat levels, lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

While there are studies that show that there may be some benefits of drinking wine or alcohol, the AHA “does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain these potential benefits.”

Liver Damage

The liver is one of the most important organs in our bodies. The liver filters all of the blood in our bodies, stores excess blood sugar and breaks down and eliminates toxins. If we drink too much alcohol over a long period of time, the intoxicating liquid can damage or destroy liver cells.

According to the American Liver Foundation, drinking more alcohol than your liver can process can lead to: fatty liver disease, which is the buildup of fatty liver cells; alcoholic hepatitis, which causes liver inflammation and damage and can lead to liver failure; or alcoholic cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver and the most severe type of alcohol-induced liver disease.

It’s also important to note that alcohol-related liver disease can lead to other organ damage, such as kidney failure, brain disorders and stomach and spleen damage.

Kidney Impairment

As we’ve mentioned, drinking alcohol can cause high blood pressure and liver damage—both of which can cause kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation defines kidney disease as “a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time,” which can lead to anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health, nerve damage and death.

According to an article in Alcohol Health & Research World (via the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), excessive alcohol consumption can cause body fluid and mineral imbalance in the kidneys, kidney cell damage, kidney enlargement and diabetes—which is the number one cause of kidney failure.

Now that you know how alcohol affects your body, think before you ask for that third glass of wine, beer or cocktail. It’s always best to drink responsibly and learn to appreciate alcoholic beverages for their flavor profiles, quality and overall experience.

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